Defense Ministry Launches Investigation Into NSO Pegasus Affair

(Israel Hayom) -
The logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group is seen at one of its branches in the Arava Desert. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

Representatives of several branches of the defense establishment and government visited the headquarters of the cyber firm NSO Group on Wednesday to begin a probe into reports that the company’s tracking software was used for illicit purposes, the Defense Ministry reported Wednesday night.

Last week, Israel Hayom revealed that the ministry intended to probe the claims circulating about NSO’s conduct. The report said that the team entrusted with looking into the reports would include representatives of the Defense Ministry, the National Security Council, the Mossad, and other officials. The team is charged with clarifying whether or not NSO Group operated in accordance with the terms of its defense export permit, which it received from the Defense Ministry’s Defense Exports Control Agency (DECA), and whether or not the company’s products have been used in ways that violate the terms of the permit.

The decision to launch a probe into the affair was made following the sensation caused by reports in 17 international media outlets, including the Washington Post and the Guardian, which were based on a leaked document that the reports said included 50,000 cellphone numbers that various governments had asked to track using NSO’s Pegasus software.

The authors of the expose claimed that in 37 cases that had been checked, Pegasus had been used to crack or try to crack the devices of political officials, elected officials, journalists, and human rights activists. The report also claimed that a few national leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, had been targeted for tracking.

Unsurprisingly, the report sparked massive backlash against NSO. France’s chief prosecutor announced that he had launched an investigation into the matter after the site Mediapart claimed that two of its reporters had been the targets of Morocco’s security services, which had supposedly employed the Pegasus software. Meanwhile, the Indian new site The Wire said that the government had asked to track the cellphone of opposition leader Rahul Gandhi.